So many things changed in 2020, and we definitely saw adjustments in wedding menus for those who still tied the knot this year. Years prior, the traditional seated dinner had been thrown out the window for many, and couples were opting for unique food options to enhance their guest’s experience. Everything from elaborate charcuterie spreads to raw bars were showing up at receptions, but especially with the onset of COVID-19, those setups definitely changed.
So, what’s to come for 2021? With weddings looking a bit different, especially for those planning earlier in the year, it may be hard to predict what’s on-trend. But we’ve got you covered. We asked industry experts what they think will be some of the biggest trends for feeding your guests in 2021. Read on for some of the top predictions to work into your wedding menu this year.
Cocktail hours are still doable, especially if they’re outdoors. However, the method of service for a typical cocktail reception is definitely being reimagined. “Pre-pandemic, we were well known for our big, beautiful charcuterie displays, which we miss," says Tanya Gurrieri, owner of Salthouse Catering. "But one item that came from this shift in styles of service is our server passed charcuterie 'cone.'” Additional concepts that caterers have been working on include developing individual boxes or boards of charcuterie, serving menu items that are designed to be kept at room temperature, and appetizer options served on skewers.
We’re not totally writing off reception buffets for 2021, but according to experts, the typical self-serve buffet probably won’t be showing up at many weddings in the future. However, there’s still a way to pull it off. “We’re strongly advocating for attended buffets,” says Beth Griffiths of Whoa Nelly Catering. “With having the buffet staffed to put food on the plate, you’re limiting the number of hands touching the utensils.” Buffet stations may also be spaced out throughout the venue to avoid over-crowding, with a method put in place to structure the way guests are called up for serving to limit standing in a line.
Bottled or Canned Cocktails
Bars are definitely here to stay for 2021. However, your typical bar setup may include plexiglass shields. Signature cocktails are still certainly in play, but there are a few cute trends emerging as industry pros aim to offer drink options for any service style or setup. “There’s definitely a trend of bottled drinks or canned cocktails,” says Griffiths. “A signature drink in a can or bottle can be produced, and then put in cute packaging.” Talk about the perfect way to include your monogram on another cute detail!
Chances are, we’ll be seeing fewer indoor weddings for 2021, and the wedding menu may follow suit. “Things that can be done outdoors may be more popular,” says Griffiths. “There may be more outdoor pizza stations or live-grilling.” We love the idea of a pizza station, allowing guests to select toppings before it’s cooked in an outdoor wood-fired oven. Other simple, grilled menu options such as grilled flank steak or barbecue chicken may be showing up on wedding menus as well.
If you’re planning your wedding for 2021, it’s the year to go all out! There’s so much uncertainly that goes with planning, but if you’ve been cutting back your guest list, there may be more of your budget left over to really go over the top with dinner. Read: a beautifully intricate tablescape, incredible cuisine, and high-end wines. “With smaller events, people are leaning more towards having something elaborate,” says Jeremy Wachalter, owner of Cobblestone Catering. “They’re still going with approachable, refined cuisine, but set up like an upscale dinner party.”
Who says you can’t offer an all-vegan menu or a number of vegetarian options at your wedding? “Food menus have slowly been shifting towards healthier options since 2018, but come 2021, we should expect to see a lot more organic, vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based options on wedding menus, as most of the population is now leaning towards healthy eating and food sustainability,” says Chef Rera Oluwafemi, owner of Chops by Rera. “This will also be a lot more achievable because weddings will be more intimate.”
Locally and Seasonally Sourced Cuisine
There’s definitely been a focus on farm-to-table menu options over the past few years, but Alexandria Hammond, director of sales and event production for Get Plated Catering and Events, predicts this may be coming on even stronger for 2021. “A focus on sourcing locally and seasonally is taking on a new resurgence as the supply chain is being heavily impacted by the pandemic,” she says. This may mean more expertly prepared dishes featuring bright, beautiful fruits and vegetables that celebrate the season.
Food Trucks On-Site
Food trucks definitely became the star of many receptions in 2019, especially as more and more couples focused on creating an experience throughout their event. Now, incorporating a food truck may also offer a safe, socially-distanced way to serve guests at the same time. “With socially distanced lines, guests can mingle and enjoy comfort foods as part of the cocktail hour before the seated dinner reception,” says Oluwafemi. We could also see this trending for backyard weddings, allowing guests to grab their meal from the food truck and enjoy dinner picnic-style.
With fewer people on the guest list, it may mean that truly your nearest and dearest are those celebrating with you. According to Angelica Laws, owner of Angelica & Co. Weddings, it seems as though couples are gravitating to more unique options, rather than just crowd-pleasers. “Instead of having to serve 200 guests, they're now able to focus more on their true preferences. My couples specifically have been paying homage to their relationships when creating their wedding menus,” she says. Think foods that you and your partner enjoyed on your first date, comfort recipes from your families, or your favorite go-to dinner and sweet treats.
The beauty of seated dinners and plated meals coming back is that couples are looking to take that concept to the next level. And without as large of a crowd to entertain, you may be spending more time around the table. According to Oluwafemi, we may be seeing dinners set up as more of a unique experience, instead of a typical three-course meal. “This would expose guests to various food options and give them a unique wedding reception experience,” she says. “You should also expect to see more duo entrees instead of single entrees.” Five expertly prepared courses instead of three? We’re in!